Here is an interesting study in contrasts within the work of an artist that, to my eye, seems to be reaping the rewards of taking on the practice of daily painting, in terms of growth as an artist and noticeable increase in skill and confidence.
Michael Naples has been doing portraits in graphite for ten years. In August of last year he started a regimen of a drawing a day, and initiated a corresponding blog. A month later, you can see apparent marked increase in control and technique between two drawings of a similar subject (August & September).
A few days later he has switched from a drawing a day to a painting a day and, as you scroll up the page (the blog is entirely displayed on one page, convenient once it’s loaded, but perhaps problematic as it grows), you can see a progression into stronger contrasts, bolder colors and more confident paint handling.
His daily paintings quickly become much more interesting, for me at least, than his more practiced portrait drawings. Though his portrait drawings are certainly competently rendered, they seem to be restrained the same limitations that often characterize portraits drawn from photographs: a vague softness, limited tonal range, and lack of defining line or strong chiaroscuro to give them the “punch” that a life drawing might have, uninhibited by the requirement of pleasing the subject with the result.
Naples’ current paintings from life, however, exhibit the opposite characteristics: bold compositions, bright energetic color, strong value contrasts and an overall confidence and enthusiasm that almost seem like the work of a different artist.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, interpreting an artist’s development from a series of blog posts, but I think you can see him progress through stages of experimentation, different approaches in brush handling, palette and composition and see a real progression in terms of his control of color, composition, value and command of the materials.
In Naples’ most recent work he has tended to frame simple subjects with warm, dark backgrounds, pushing them forward and modeling them with bold, lively brushstrokes and rich colors. Many of them exhibit a maturity as a painter that belie the short time since he undertook the daily painting routine to “get back into the groove of painting”.
You will also find his work on a daily painters group site, Daily Paintworks, which appears to be one of the stronger of the recent daily painter community sites. The site itself is new to me, but it seems I’ve written posts on all but two of the 12 current members.